Michaela DePrince: From African War Orphan to American World Renowned Ballerina

Mabinty Bangura, an orphan, in Sierra Leone

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Her life is beyond remarkable. It is an epitome of pain, suffering, hope, survival, overcoming, and success. Most of all, it is a testimony to humanity winning over human evil, and transforming  human perseverance into a victory against all odds.  

That is the life of Michaela DePrince, an African war orphan, originally from the country of Sierra Leone, who ended up adopted by Elaine DePrince and her husband Charles in New Jersey, United States and now dominates the world of ballerina. 
To get to where Michaela is, any person has to cross several challenges. For a black woman from Africa, the challenges are even almost surreal. For Michaela, an orphan from a war ravaged country, the odds looked even very dimmer. As Michaela recently said on NBC, when she was eight years old,  her teacher warned her about challenges ahead, saying: "You know, we don't put a lot of effort into the black ballerinas because they all end up getting fat and having big boobs."

This did not stop her. She had seen more obstacles before; she was not going to be discouraged by prejudice and . 
At 17, the youngest ballerina among other dancers,  Michaela DePrince was performing with the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City. 
At 18, she joined  the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam. 

At 22,  the Dutch National Ballet director, Ted Brandsen, promoted Michaela DePrince to soloist.  She is only one level below the world top  ballerinas. In 2016, she was selected by  the pop star Beyonce for a solo dance featured in the "Freedom" music video from "Lemonade."
That is what people now see: a ballerina at the top of her game.  What they may overlook, is how she got there.Michaela DePrince, then Mabinty Bangura,   was born in Sierra Leone in 1995.Sierra Leone was ravaged by a brutal bloody civil war.  When she was three years-old, her father was killed by rebels and  her mother died, shortly after,  of illness and starvation.

She was then sent to a refugee camp, where she joined other war orphans. Because of her skin condition, known as vitiligo, which manifests through white spots on the skin,  she was bullied and deprived of basic necessities, that other orphans received based on a preferential ranking. Her only friend, also equally bullied and deprived, was also named Mabinty. They would both be adopted by DePrince family.

It is during that lonely life in the camp, that Mabinty Bangura discovered what a ballerina is.  After seeing a picture of a ballerina on a cover of "Dance Magazine", blown by the wind near the orphanage, she asked her teacher.  Her teacher explained that picture was of a ballerina and explained what a ballerina is. Mabinty Bangura was hooked. She  kept the flame, of one day becoming a ballerina,  inside her.Not longer after, the rebels attacked the orphanage, savagely killed the teacher and stabbed Mabinty.

It is by fate that DePrince family from New Jersey, United States,  who wanted to adopt the other Mabinty, ended up with the two Mabinty orphan friends and gave them the life in the United States of America,a  foundation of what they, both, are accomplishing today.


 The journey of Michaela DePrince, from her Mabinty Bangura's years, is a remarkable story  that can be read in her memoir "Ballerina Dreams" 

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